There are many cases where even the best parenting agreement can’t work. If both parents aren’t committed then even the best plan fails. There are some things that you can do to help facilitate visits. Although you may welcome not having the other parent show up; your kids don’t. You should always strive to ensure your child gets time with both parents regardless of your relationship with your ex. Below are some practical solutions that might help.
My ex didn’t show up on a regular basis for some time. It took time and communication to change that. Now he shows up consistently and we have a much better relationship. First thing I learned was to stop preparing my son for a visit that might not happen. Second I had to learn to stop making plans as if my ex would show up. If you don’t expect the other parent to show up then it lessens the disappointment when they don’t show for you and your child.
In my parenting agreement there is a clause that says if you are 45 mins late the visit is canceled. I added this clause after making plans and then being late myself as I was waiting for my ex to show up. I never had to actually cancel a visit but if I had to have I could have fallen back on the agreement to prevent any arguments. This is important as you may have an engagement that you must attend. If you need to send your child to a sitter or daycare or grandparents you shouldn’t be penalized or get grief over it. You are entitled to a life outside of your children.
Now I would call once it reached the appointed time and my ex wasn’t there. Sometimes he was just running late. Other times he just wasn’t coming and didn’t remember to call. A simple phone call can avoid a lot of anger and frustration so pick up the phone and call before you assume what is going on.
I have another clause in my parenting agreement that states after 3 missed visits a $45 payment has to be made to me to cover the cost. Child support is set up under the belief that both parents are actively participating in the child’s life. When one parent doesn’t show up it adds expense to the other parent. One of my ex’s consistently canceled visits but after that clause was added it got soooooo much better quickly. Keep in mind this wasn’t to punish my ex. This was done to make sure he came for his visits. Sometimes the parent doesn’t realize how often they cancel. When they have to start writing a check when they miss a visit it helps them remember.
Another great option is to reschedule. Remember that you should be flexible. It is annoying to always be the one to be flexible but you have children. In my case, I have my children for 26 days out of 30. That is the standard every other weekend visitation schedule. If the other parent can’t make it this weekend allow them to reschedule. It is your job to ensure your kids get the support they need from both parents. Doesn’t sound fair but in almost all cases the parent visiting gets way less time with the children.
They key to all of the above is communication. The parenting agreement has set out the expectations there is no need to argue over anything. When the expectations are not met ask why. No contention needed.
Now there are going to be the parents that just never show up. You can try talking to them to figure out why they don’t show up. I have heard some parents say they just don’t feel welcome any longer in their child’s life. This happens most often when the other parent has moved on and has started a new relationship. You need to ensure your kids come first. You might like your ex…you might loathe them….but your kids still love them.
Another reason some parents stop visiting is because they get grief every time they show up. Don’t discuss things when the parent shows up to pick up the kids. The visitation time is for the kids. This is not the time to complain about or to your ex. If you have something to discuss then find a separate time to do it. This is your kid’s time not yours.
The best advice I can give is to minimize the damage to your child. When visits aren’t consistent it can create self-doubt, low self-esteem and even a sense of not being loved by the other parent any longer. Definitely let the visits be a surprise. Don’t prepare your child for a visit that probably won’t happen. Talk to your child and explain that the other parent isn’t coming and make sure they know it has nothing to do with them. You don’t have to and shouldn’t, in fact, lie but do be careful with brutally honesty as well.
Don’t ever give up. My ex didn’t come on a regular basis for the first three years. He has since come just about every time and he and our son have a good relationship. No pressure, no nagging just patience and reminders that his son was still waiting for him.